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Apr 29
Innovation #6

This is the final post on innovation for now. It doesn't mean I've run out of ideas and thoughts but this completes the overview.

The Innovation Journey

Innovation involves more than one type of thinking and it has a general flow about it. The model below is one I like because is shows how we need to do both divergent thinking and convergent thinking in both the problem understanding portion and the solution creation portions of the problem solving.


So we start with an initial idea of the problem and we diverge and explore to understand it better. This is divergent thinking and research. As our understanding improves, we can refine down to a specific problem definition. This is convergent thinking.

So unless the problem is one we have seen before, fully understand, and know exactly how to solve, we have to do some divergent and exploratory thinking.

A common mistake I see in projects we get after someone else has already had a go at it and failed is that they did not do the divergent thinking. The focussed on coming up with a solution without understanding the problem. Or they applied a solution they understood to the problem without looking at the problem closely enough to see if that was a good idea or not. Then all their efforts focus on how to fix the under-performing solution.

Once we have narrowed the problem down it is time to look at solutions. Depending on the problem we might need to do some divergent thinking and explore the range of solutions available. Then we can select and implement a solution.

And of course, if it doesn't work, rather than trying to tweak the solution. Take what you have learned and redo the process to see if you missed something. This should be a much faster iteration unless you missed something major. And if you did miss something major you now have a better understanding for the next pass.

Unknown Unknowns


Sometime you do get caught out because in your exploration you didn't know something and were not even aware it existed to be known. The dreaded Unknown Unknown. This is the Unconscious Incompetence problem.

The quickest way to get to Conscious Competence (you know what you need to know and how to use that knowledge) is to get an expert to advise you. This is another area where Australia's very low collaboration gets in the way of Innovation. We don't get help when we need it. We will looks stuff up online but getting another person to teach us what they know that we need to know is not a strong point.

Cognitive Bias

Think of these as bugs in our thinking. The Art of Thinking Clearly by Rolf Dobelli documents 99 different biases that can cause us to come to that wrong conclusion with great confidence.

Rolf Dobelli.jpg

Some examples are:

  • Confirmation bias (giving more creed to people who agree with you)
  • Ambiguity Effect (avoid looking at things if we can't assess the chance of success up front)
  • Anchor bias (let just one element dominate your focus)

Being aware of how we can be irrationalise can help us to avoid these thinking bugs.

Do we always have to be reasonable?

As it turns out, it can be necessary to be unreasonable, at least occasionally!

Progress sometimes requires us to go against the flow.

“The reasonable man adapts himself to his environment. The unreasonable man persists in adapting his environment to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man".

George Bernard Shaw

George Bernard Shaw.jpg

So that should give you a few different ways to think about how to innovate. But again I emphasise, progress will require you to partner with others to innovate that first.

Ray Keefe

Successful Endeavours


Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In Australia. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years.

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